Former Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy and Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey have been named finalists for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014. The Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee selected the two players to join 15 modern-era finalists who have yet to be named. Guy and Humphrey were announced in a press release published Wednesday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Guy's name has become so synonymous with punting that it now adorns the award given annually to the best punter in college football. He became the first punter ever drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Raiders selected him No. 23 overall in 1973. He earned six consecutive All-Pro selections upon entering the league, and would finish his career with seven Pro Bowls before retiring in 1986.
Guy averaged a healthy 42.4 yards per punt across 1,049 punts over the course of 14 seasons. Perhaps more impressive was his ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory. From 1976 until his retirement, Guy placed 210 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Despite his numbers and accolades, Guy's worthiness for the Hall of Fame has been hotly debated. He has already been named a finalist seven times -- 1992, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2007 and 2008 -- without being voted in. A 2012 column by Andy Barall of The New York Times argued that Guy's effectiveness as a punter may have been overstated, pointing out that Guy's penchant for pinning teams deep also came with a tendency to boot balls into the end zone for touchbacks. Guy ranks eighth all time among punters in career touchback percentage.
Humphrey has been nominated to the Hall of Fame four times -- 2003, 2005, 2006 and as a senior candidate in 2009-- without induction. His candidacy may have been hurt by the fact that the place he played the bulk of his career, Atlanta, simply was not very good during his prime. Humphrey was drafted No. 3 overall in 1968, just in time to join a 2-12 team. He played on just three teams with winning records across 11 seasons--the 7-6 1971 squad, 9-5 1973 squad and 9-7 1978 squad.
Humphrey's numbers were very good, however. Though the NFL didn't officially keep track of sacks until 1982, Humphrey is credited with 122 sacks during his time with the Falcons and the Eagles (1979-1981). His career-best season came in 1976, when he notched 15 sacks after missing the 1975 season with a knee injury. Humphrey retired in 1981 after six Pro Bowl years. Dave Choate of the Falcons blog The Falcoholic called Humphrey "one of the best players to ever don a Falcons uniform."
Guy and Humphrey will need to garner 80 percent of the votes available from the selection committee to finally be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Both players are considered senior nominees because their careers ended at least 25 years ago.